Candidates have their say at local forum

25 in contested primaries discuss teacher salaries, Tubman museum project

GOP executive hopefuls face off

Adler, Schoeffield spar on issues, their qualifications

Howard County

July 28, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

From prostate cancer treatment to higher salaries for teachers, 25 candidates for various Howard County offices talked issues yesterday at a continuous series of primary election forums sponsored by the African American Coalition of Howard County.

Consensus emerged on a few things during the six hours of questions at county school board headquarters on Route 108, but only candidates running in contested races for the Sept. 10 primary were allowed to speak. Officials such as County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, and state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, a Republican with no opponent, were not interviewed, though Kittleman attended.

Everyone on the panels favored turning the former segregation-era Harriet Tubman High School building next to Atholton High School over to the African-American community for use as a museum and cultural center -- though no one suggested exactly how to pay for it. Conservative Republican Bob Adams, a candidate for House of Delegates in District 13, even vowed, if elected, to get a ladder and a hammer and personally put the words "Harriet Tubman" on the 54-year-old building's brick wall.

Howard's teachers, whose starting pay ranks in the middle of Maryland's districts, should get big increases to catch up with neighboring Montgomery County, the candidates agreed, but no one said they favored a tax increase to pay that tab.

Only one, west Columbia's District 4 County Council candidate Mary Kay Sigaty, a Democrat, even hinted that Howard's tax rates should be discussed if revenues continue to lag. "I don't believe we can do more with less," she said.

Incumbent Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, a western county Republican, added a note of pragmatism by pointing out that the school board and the county executive control what teachers' salaries will be, not the County Council.

School board candidates Barry Tevelow and Courtney Watson debated ways of bridging the achievement gap between white and African-American students.

Tevelow said he would be a strong voice for directing money to the classroom and away from bloated central administrative perks.

Watson said her mentoring of a pupil at Dasher Green Elementary -- one of the county's poorer performing schools -- has "been an eye-opening experience."

Expectations must be raised and ways found to get and keep the best teachers in the schools that need help, she said, and principals should do more classroom-related work and less administrative chores, too, she said.

A question on the need for more prostate cancer screening for black men brought forth several candidates' stories of the deaths of relatives, or of a first exposure to a test.

The two GOP candidates for county executive -- Steven H. Adler and Clark J. Schoeffield -- squared off on several issues, though Adler issued more criticisms of Robey than Schoeffield.

Adler said Robey mishandled the controversy over where to put a proposed privately run crisis center by pitting the black community against the needs of people in crisis with a proposal to locate the center at the Tubman building, next to the county's homeless shelter.

Robey has said he never proposed anything, but merely entertained proposals suggested by crisis center advocates and tried to mediate. The school board owns the Tubman building, now used for Head Start classes and a school board maintenance shop.

Adler suggested that $400,000 the county spent to install high-tech satellite locators on county snowplows "for two days a year" could have gone to the Tubman museum project.

If elected, Adler said he would stop plans for a new Howard county government office complex in Ellicott City, cut the county executive's staff and the public information office, cut government spending and pay teachers more without raising taxes. He and Tevelow also criticized the size of the school system's central staff.

Adler said he would "get police administrators out from behind desks and be proactive." Asked whether he would favor expanding crime HotSpot programs, Adler said, "I object to allowing neighborhoods to be HotSpots in the first place."

Schoeffield, a late entry, hit repeatedly on what he called "a feeding frenzy in the development community to build, build and build at such an alarming rate, we, the public, can't keep up with it." He said builders should pay more for the new schools and infrastructure new homes require. He also opposes slot machines at race tracks, something Adler said he backs.

The two Republicans traded barbs on their respective qualifications. Adler said that in his decade of activities on numerous boards and commissions, neither he nor anyone on his 15-member campaign committee had ever heard of Schoeffield.

Schoeffield shot back that in his work on a community task force studying traffic and growth stresses in the Worthington area of Ellicott City, he had never heard of Adler.

"That doesn't really mean anything. I have a passion," Schoeffield said. "Steve and Jim Robey are part of the establishment. They have to answer to the establishment," he said, referring to Robey's career as a civil servant and Adler's civic and business involvement.

Schoeffield also criticized a report by the U.S. 1 revitalization task force, which Adler co-chaired, as encouraging new development that would eliminate housing for low-income working families. He later acknowledged that he hadn't read the report.

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